Monday, November 12, 2007

On Monkeys and Lunches

I have tended to keep my blog entries somewhat heavy. I write of the challenging things I encounter and I always try to picture everything in the best light I can to show the good that I see here. Well, my time in Pirgatcha was a wonderful light for me and I would like to share some of that with you.

The village of Pirgatcha is situated in one of Bangladesh's largest National Forests, Modhupur National Forest, and is one of many Mandi tribal villages in the area. It is a beautiful area, full of beautiful people and beautiful wildlife. The intensity of Bangladesh's population melts into oblivion in this place of natural wonder, and it is here that I love to come to relax and think.

This month, Sarah, another MCC Volunteer in Bangladesh is living near Pirgatcha doing language study and living with a wonderful family. The Modhupur area is one of the largest fruit producing areas in Bangladesh, and so the opportunity to eat bananas and pineapples was relished. The frenzy of rice harvest is in full swing in Pirgatcha, huge oxen pulling carts heavy-laden with freshly harvested chal (rice), men and women cutting the chal and laying it in the drying fields. A beautiful sight of activity flowing against the sky, a stunning backdrop of every hue of blue imaginable. Past the dhans (fields), the banana trees freshly picked and looking weary from lack of moisture, sighing on the land from overuse, an unfortunate sight in this area full of so much beauty.

The Modhupur forest is not only a place for tribal villagers and their crops, it is also home to many animals driven out of most other places in Bangladesh. I have not yet been to Pirgatcha and failed to see a monkey sitting in a tree. This weekend was a Hanuman monkey, and what a creature of grace. There he sat in the tree, looking at us on the path below. Sitting gracefully, like a boy who just climbed up a tree, sitting and watching the world go by. His long tail flowing down behind him and tufts of hair on his cheeks and head gave him a regal appearance. What a beautiful creature, and what poise; almost human in appearance. The second primate I was privileged enough to see was an Indian Rhesus monkey as we drove through the park in the bus on the way back to Mymensingh. A beautiful species just ambling down the path beside the road.

Pirgatcha had more than just physical beauty to provide its sense of happiness and relaxation. Hours were spent just staring out from the veranda, or sitting being fed lunch. More lunch than I could handle. When I first arrived at noon I was invited to have lunch with Father Homerich, an eccentric man who always speaks his mind. It was a wonderful lunch of chicken and rice, and following that meal I went out to visit Sarah. About an hour after arriving and meeting Mabel's family, I was invited to have lunch for the second time. Another large plate or rice and curry later, we were off to a baby dedication prayer. A wonderful opportunity to practice my Bengali and of course the opportunity to eat more lunch. First we had a snack of puffed rice and tea, which I assumed, being almost three o'clock in the afternoon, was an afternoon snack, but that was quickly followed up by a large plate of rice and pork, not a vegetable in sight. After the pork and chicken curries, I was so full I could barely move, I don't think I have ever eaten so much rice so quickly, but the hospitality and conversation were wonderful.

Sometimes the places I go and the people I meet can be overwhelming, but in Pirgatcha, a sense of peace and relaxation falls over me and I am just happy to be. To be in a place of natural beauty and with people who appreciate what it means to be different. It is a place I will always love.

In Peace.


Kristen said...

Well, Steve, they must be feeding you well if in a few hours you had 3 lunches. Did you take a picture of the monkey?

Anonymous said...

Hi. Aunt ER here. Well Steven, knowing what you can consume, what can I say, I am not surprised that you were able to handle three meals. However, maybe next time?
Sorry about your phone and wallet. About the children, it takes a special heart to be so tender to pain and suffering. It helps to be able to make a difference and not get hardened.